La. House committee puts the brakes on a license plate scanner bill

Published: May. 10, 2016 at 11:59 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2016 at 2:34 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A House committee put the brakes on a bill Tuesday that would have allowed law enforcement to use license plate scanners to identify those driving without insurance.

With a vote of 6-5, the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice deferred SB 54, sponsored by Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, after more than an hour of testimony.

Under the bill, a pilot program with the cameras would be put in place in nine parishes. Cameras would be used to identify those driving without insurance. Violators would then be issued a fine.

The bill is being pushed by a private company called the Louisiana Consortium for Public Safety. Under a proposed contract, the company would install the cameras and cover the $5 million price tag of the equipment and personnel. In exchange, the district attorneys and the sheriff offices across the state, who would oversee the program, would give 30 percent of certain fines back to the company.

Many members of law enforcement associations backed the measure, saying it could also help in identify those wanted for other crimes. Supporters said that North Carolina had already tested a similar program.

"It is available and being used commonly everywhere else. We'd like to use it and if we can get it for free, I'm here to support it," said 23rd Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin.

Pete Adams, the executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, called the bill a "no risk" measure. He estimated that between 13 and 16 percent of drivers on Louisiana roads do not have insurance.

Still, others on the committee expressed concerns over privacy and worried that it could lead to law enforcement abusing their power to search individuals unfairly. They also questioned how effective the measure could really be.

"Where's the study to show when you find people, that makes them go get insurance? Most times, if they don't have no insurance, they don't have no money to pay insurance," said Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge.

The bill could still come up again if Johns elects to do so. The measure has already successfully made it through the Senate.

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